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When in Rome

How Unions are Bargaining Coronavirus Protections

Good news from UAW, IBEW, CWA, Teachers at the table

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 18, 2020

With coronavirus spreading throughout the world, workers in a number of industries have faced uncertain futures. Sports leagues have been canceled, and jobs have shut down. However, for some union members, there is good news. For the last few weeks, unions have been negotiating and bargaining with companies to get back pay or new protections on the job.

When the NCAA decided to cancel their Men’s Basketball tournament, IBEW members who broadcast the game for CBS were set to lose lots of money. According to the union about 500-600 members work on the game. Within hours of the cancelation, both the IBEW and CBS’ Patty Power, a CBS Sports executive who works directly with freelancers and their union representatives, were in contact and a deal was reached within 48 hours. The agreement ensures that all of the IBEW members who were scheduled to work the 63-game tournament will get paid their normal weekly rate. Negotiations with the tournament's other broadcaster, Fox, are still ongoing.

The IBEW also negotiated an agreement with their contractors (NECA) to protect any IBEW member’s job if they are forced to quarantine, establish procedures in case workers are furloughed and establishes a procedure for workers coming back from being sick. You can read the full agreement here.

Teachers across the country pushed to close schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. UCOMM reported last week about an effort from the AFT and New York teachers to close schools. Since then, all schools have been closed until April 1 in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have closed schools and California currently has closed about 99% of the states public schools. Across the country, teachers unions are working with their districts to roll out an online teaching curriculum that allows them to continue educating their students from the safety of their homes.

With New York being the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, the men and women who work at the courts were concerned about their safety. Every day thousands of people come in and out of the courts with no checks to see if they are sick. After pressure from the unions, the court system decided to close all non-essential operations. Thanks to the union the members are not being charged accruals for being home and the members that have to work are receiving minute to minute comp time.

At Verizon, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) entered into negotiations with the company to provide new benefits for their members including a new policy regarding leave and the coverage of telehealth services. The union was even able to get the company to provide back up care for members children. This benefit was only available to management before the agreement.

The UAW has been pressuring the big three automakers to close as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread. With hundreds of workers in the factory, they were worried that these places would become breeding grounds for the virus. Following a discussion with General Motors (GM), the company announced a temporary suspension of activities.

“GM and the UAW have always put the health and safety of the people entering GM plants first, and we have agreed to a systematic, orderly suspension of production to aid in fighting COVID-19/coronavirus,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “We have been taking extraordinary precautions around the world to keep our plant environments safe and recent developments in North America make it clear this is the right thing to do now. I appreciate the teamwork of UAW President Rory Gamble, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes and local leadership as we take this unprecedented step.”

Ford is taking a similar step suspending production at North American factories until March 30th to ensure that all factories are cleaned and decontaminated to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

With the news everchanging, please stay safe, listen to CDC guidelines and check with your union for more changes.

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